Owlstone Medical wins contract to develop handheld non-invasive breath biopsy for warfighters

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags breath biopsy Infectious diseases infections respiratory health

Owlstone Medical has won a contract from the US Department of Defense that will allow it to develop a handheld breath biopsy device for early infectious diseases.

The award, Owlstone says, recognizes potential of the technology it is developing for non-invasive viral and bacterial respiratory infectious disease detection.

The Exhale project is focused on the early detection of human infection by using volatile, organic compounds (VOCs) on breath. A handheld device capable of the non-invasive detection of pre-symptomatic respiratory infectious disease the company says.

Warfighters, or soldiers in conflict, routinely operate in remote environments where access to medical personnel is limited and the ability to diagnose infectious disease early is challenging. Under these conditions, Owlstone says the risk of contracting a respiratory disease which can then be subsequently spread to others is high and can have a severe impact on mission readiness.

Most current diagnostic testing platforms are unsuitable to be deployed in the field, and so the company feels there is a significant need for a portable solution.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “We have completed multiple studies in lung inflammation and bacterial and viral infectious disease (including COVID) with major pharma and academic partners, providing us with a broad list of candidate biomarkers for consideration in this project.”

The portable device by Owlstone will be adapted to work off battery power and detect VOCs present in exhaled breath, filling a gap in infectious disease detection. By aiming for the earliest possible identification of asymptomatic infected individuals in the field, the device would reduce the risk of disease transmission wherever deployed, providing a strategic advantage to the force.

Based on the Company’s proprietary FAIMS technology, the device will be developed over a two-year period, supported by clinical studies to be performed at Duke University. Initial work will focus on identifying and validating breath biomarkers for viral and bacterial pathogens and defining performance requirements for the device.

Boyle added: “We have a proprietary technology in FAIMS, and extensive experience with device development and sensor design, including in small handheld devices. With proven expertise and technology in both areas, we believe Owlstone is uniquely positioned to support the EXHALE project and are pleased that the DIU agrees and has awarded us this contract.”

If successful, there is potential for a second phase to the project for further development of the device to the point of being ready for high-volume manufacturing by Owlstone, and global deployment in the field.

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